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 JOHN WOODSWORTH
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Sample Russian-to-English translations: 4

Faina Blagodarova
(Russian-Canadian poet)

Four poems:
There are birches here... [I berezy...]
Voice of the Earth [Golos Zemli]
I once heard someone... [Raz uslyshala...]
Scales [Gammy]
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(page updated 6 December 2006)
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Special note December 2006

The first three of these translations have now been published in JW's English translation of Faina Blagodarova's novel  Oh those dark eyes, along with a number of other poem translations.  For a complete list see Poetry & music page.

Russian-Canadian writer Faina Blagodarova is an acclaimed novelist as well as a poet, residing for the time being in America.  Her first major novel Akh, èti chernye glaza... [Oh, those dark eyes...] has been published (in its original language) in both America and Russia, and was recently serialised in the Russian literary journal Oktjabr'.  She is currently seeking a publisher for its English translation, the initial draft of which was carried out by JW.

Ms Blagodarova is also a professional singer, and has recorded an album of a collection of her children's songs in Russian, with a book illustrated by her own fine art-work.  These songs have also been translated into English by JW, and a publisher is being sought.

In February 2002 JW gave a conference paper at the University of Ottawa, entitled "Meaning & musicality: striking a balance in poetry translation". 
Click here for an audio-recording of this paper.

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Click on the links below to see the original Russian text.


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There are birches here...
(I berezy...)

Faina Blagodarova

CLICK TO SEE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN TEXT


There are birches here, just as in Russia, I see,
And willows whose branches o'er still waters sway.
Do not ask me, I beg you -- Oh, do not ask me
To sing of my homeland, now so far away.

Many sorrows have met us along our dark path,
Yea, many a difficult path have we trod.
But we have been saved, and delivered from death
And shown a new homeland by Almighty God.

O Canada mine, land of forests and isles,
How many cold hearts have found warmth on your shores!
No eloquent words, but your people's bright smiles
Offer welcome to strangers who pass through your doors.

The groans of despair from our weary ones now
You have stilled with your one simple gesture of love.
Please accept in return, now, my most grateful bow
For your limitless space and your heavens above!

There are birches here, just as in Russia, I see,
But with branches outreaching more broadly apart.
Do not ask me, I beg you -- No, do not ask me
To sing of my home -- but an ache in my heart!
 

English verse translation © John Woodsworth
Ottawa (Canada)
27 January 2000

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For JW, the following poem of Faina Blagodarova's is one of the most delightful he has ever read, by any poet of any period.
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Voice of the Earth
(Golos Zemli)

Faina Blagodarova

CLICK TO SEE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN TEXT


I shall put on my crystal dewdrop necklace,
And lightning's comb will smooth my silken curls...
I'll sew a country road on April's canvas
And hasten to greet the Spring as it unfurls!

My earrings from fresh rosebuds will be smelted,
I'll plait my hair with streams in graceful flight,
I'll trim my dress with pussy-willow velvet,
And weave my bridal veil of dawn's own light.

I'll paint my face with sunlight's rouge of brightness,
Perfume myself with winds from mountain caves,
I'll stand o'er rushing streams as heaven's likeness,
Baptised as a reflection in their waves.

Run, river, run -- bear tidings of my glory,
And waken Nature from its winter dream,
Like cranes in northward flight proclaim my story
And say that Spring once more is in its sheen.
 

English verse translation © John Woodsworth
Ottawa (Canada)
5-7 April 2000

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One of the early chapters in Faina Blagodarova's first novel Oh, those dark eyes... portrays the horrors of the Leningrad blockade during World War II, which she lived through as a young schoolgirl.  The remarkable poem which follows, describing the ordeal from her youthful point of view, was written as a school composition.  Her teachers and the school authorities needed a great deal of convincing before they finally acknowledged that she had indeed written it herself.
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I once heard someone...
(Raz uslyshala...)

Faina Blagodarova

CLICK TO SEE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN TEXT


I once heard someone ignorantly state
That during the blockade there was no school.
I beg your leave to set the record straight --
I don't want anybody to be fooled.

Though not behind a schooldesk, still we passed
The subjects set before us -- no one failed.
Outside the curtained windows was our class,
Under the plaintive sound of sirens' wails.

From daily news reports we learnt geography,
Anatomy from corpses passing by,
Through posters in the streets -- correct orthography,
Astronomy -- through fires in the sky!

We made our mathematical equations
By sharing rations with all those around
And exercise and physical recreation
We had through digging trenches in the ground.

In literature our minds grew sharp and strong
From reading letters that our fathers sent.
Our music education came from songs
The soldiers sang when off to war they went.

The legendary victories of Rome
Stayed hidden on the dusty library shelves.
For history we witnessed on our own,
Yea, history was what we made ourselves!

There was no time for childish games of war...
It wasn't our decision to take sides.
The 'game' was all too real outside the door...
We only knew that once we fell, we died!

The mouths of bombed-out craters opened wide
And tore right out the heart of Mother Earth.
And only through our pain our tears were dried
To give the wrinkles on our faces birth.
 

English verse translation © John Woodsworth
Ottawa (Canada)
1 March 2000

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The following example is from Faina Blagodarova's illustrated collection of children's songs (see description above).
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Scales
(Gammy)

Faina Blagodarova
 

CLICK TO SEE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN TEXT


I feel like a prickly cactus:
All my scales I gotta practise.
Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti,
Jeepers!  How can I break free?

Piano doesn't feel like humming
With my fingers on it drumming --
Guess their weight is just too much:
Piano wants a lighter touch.

So my piano won't be injured,
I should go and play with Ginger.
Just look out and take a peek:
All the kids playing hide-and-seek!

I'm annoyed and full of envy,
But thereís no escape, not any!
Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti,
I'm exhausted -- don't you see?

Now I hear my angry mummy:
"You still need more practice, sonny!"
Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti,
Please, dear Lord, deliver me!
 
 

English verse translation © John Woodsworth
Ottawa (Canada)
6 May 2000

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"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you... 
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

-- John 14:27
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